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Movie Review: WALL-E, The Wicked Scare Tactics Of A Cute Robot

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WALL-E is an ugly movie on multiple levels. It is literally ugly to look at. It is ugly in its philosophical vision, and it's worse than ugly in the heavy-handed way that it seeks to propagandize young children through fear.

But first things first. WALL-E is a cute but very lonesome animated robot, an intergalactic trash compactor all alone on Earth on a centuries-long cleanup project with only a cockroach for company. Who wouldn't root for poor rusty, plucky WALL-E? There's a very nice love story with new arrival EVE.

The animators are obviously good students of ol' Walt Disney and the way he could anthropomorphize anything. There's a great deal of skill in the very human and highly emotionally communicative expressions of the robot couple. This jumped out particularly at the point where an injured and repaired WALL-E temporarily lost his human soul, and acted momentarily as only a robot.

Wall-E and EveBut the cute robots are just there to suck little children in to be manipulated and frightened by this increasingly ugly apocalyptic environmental religion. The evil Buy n Large corporation has utterly destroyed and abandoned Earth, covered in an endless thick nasty sea of trash. (To which piles we can add the marketing detritus from this movie, such as the cheap rubber watches handed out to young movie goers at the theater – or literally billions of other pieces of similar Disney junk). Not to worry: WALL-E will be around to clean them up in a few hundred years.)

For starters, this premise makes the movie largely visually ugly to look at on a basic aesthetic level. The Earth half of the movie is set in a trash dump, carefully engineered to be particularly unappealing – even for a trash heap. You're not scaring the kids properly with the threat of ruin if you make their trash dump Earth look like a fun place to play. Plus, rather than cute bunnies and squirrels, WALL-E's only companion is a cockroach. Yuck.

Wall-E and the trash which is EarthBut the huge floating permanent vacation cruise spaceship on which all the humans have been living for 700 years is truly a far uglier vision of Hell. They have little robot cleaning agents keeping things antiseptically clean, but any normal person would rather die than live in the kind of ugly sterility portrayed here.

Then you get to the really ugly part – the actual "humans" in the ship. They're all tooling around on floating motorized Barcoloungers. It wouldn't even occur to any of these grotesquely fat sacks of mindless consumer appetite to walk even a few steps. Besides being a grotesquely misanthropic slander of our species, the trash-Earth, sterile spaceship, and most especially the hideous excuses for humans are highly unpleasant. Is this really a vision fit for impressionable young children?

One might reasonably be offended by the ridiculous slander against, basically, American capitalism. In this version, it's nothing but a stupid and shortsighted corporation. They are the only government around. Without some Al Gore running things, naturally the people have no more sight or gumption than to destroy the Earth and their own bodies through sloth and mindless consumption. This is truly one of the ugliest and most contemptible images of humanity that you could conjure up. I would certainly rather be represented by the regular cheesy left-wing images of evil, bloody imperialism.

Just in passing, note what a complete disconnect there is between WALL-E versus any kind of real capitalist American behavior. For one thing, it's not Americans doing the prime trashing of the planet. Rich Americans and Europeans have been at some pains to clean things up and preserve their homes and property – partly because being wealthy means they can afford to. It's not rich Americans and Europeans doing most of the trashing. To the extent that the planet is getting abused, it's mostly third-world dictators and their desperate, starving subjects.

Also, why would the greedy Buy n Large corporation rescue and maintain these useless consumer pods? These "humans" do nothing but consume. They're leeches on the corporation as presented here. Capitalism is about producing and creating so that you will be able to consume. There's nothing like that in the world of WALL-E. The ship seems to be nothing but a giant floating welfare state.

But enough about their cheesy ideology. I don't much care about cheap messages in art. Overlook that. A pretty good percentage of children's programming in particular is loaded up with cheap feel-good multicultural it's-a-small-world-after-all crapola. Yeah, yeah.

I suppose I risk looking like a narrow-minded fuddy-duddy, unable to appreciate art because of some reactionary anti-environmental ideology or such like. Fine, take these comments as you will. But my objection is not primarily about having a "liberal" message. I'm mostly content to appreciate the good in a piece of art, and trust people to think through things for themselves.

But I do object to manipulating children through fright for any stupid ideology, purposely rooting unnecessary fear to fester down in their young souls. I don't much appreciate when evangelical yahoos go scaring six-year-old children with stories about hellfire and brimstone. It's bogus and wicked when some Pentecostal schmuck scares little kids out of their wits with threats of hellfire – and it's no nicer when the Disney Corp. puts out apocalyptic nonsense like this.

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  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “The ship seems to be nothing but a giant floating welfare state.”

    Yes, and it’s not a good thing in the film, which seemed to be part of the point of the story as well, but you give them no credit for that.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Wow. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he missed the point, but I’m a little stunned that he did so with such a careless analysis of the film.

    The overall point of WALL-E has to do with us, as humans, not giving up our humanness. The relinquishment of our ability to play, work, produce, consume, MOVE leads to the vision of the future found in this film. As humans become more obsessed with “doing things the easy way” and expending less energy in favour of a reliance on technology, we’re going to get fat, lazy, and so on. This “message,” Al, is no different than the “message” we give our children anyway: exercise, take care of your planet, DO SOMETHING.

    How is it possible that you’ve construed this as a bad message?

  • Jordan Richardson

    And nice touch adding the “child abuse” book, Barger. That’s really quite a shameless thing to do, but Richard Dawkins would probably be proud.

    The only abuse taking place here is the relentless spin machine hard at work in America that continues to press partisan politics into even the most innocent and innocuous corners of culture to expose our children to our warped “adult” cynicism as much in advance as possible.

  • mike

    what a stupid article. you guys really are pathetic and have nothing better to do.

  • Elena

    While I agree on some small level with everything you said here, I have to go ahead and defend WALL-E, my favorite movie this year. What this movie represents, as most of its supporters note, is the gross human abuse of our most precious possessions: our planet and our souls. Our love of the WalMart culture, i.e. progenitor of cheap, plastic crap, destroys our ability to live on Earth, and our love of letting everything/everyone else do our work, 700 years in the future turns us into slovenly, weighty blobs of flesh. Have you SEEN most of America? Anyone you know remind you of one of these people? Any town you notice remind you of apocalyptic WALL-E world?

  • JerseyCajun

    For all the claims you’re making of scaring kids, the kids at the viewing I attended were much more affected emotionally by Wall-E’s love story than scared of the condition of the Earth and humanity.

    In other words, unless you can cite personal experience of seeing kids scared by these things, then I think you’re pulling your criticisms out of your own political prejudices.

    Honestly, given that the people who are offended by this movie have come from both the left and the right, I think the movie plays more like a Rorschach test for Republicans and Democrats too ideologically blinded to see anything but what they want to see, ignoring the parts which clearly don’t fit their scathing, hyperbolic criticism.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Miss Elena, you seem to be basically gulping down their apocalyptic koolaid. This does not in fact resemble the world and the Wal-Mart as I experience them.

    Am I supposed to buy the whole pinko environmental thing because some Wal-Mart patrons (myself included) are fat? Over abunduance of food is largely a new problem for us, when most of the time it’s been a question of getting enough nourishment. But that doesn’t mean that most people are lazy and souless like in Wall-E. In summary, no the patrons of my local Connersville, Indiana Wal-Mart do not resemble the pod people in the B&L spaceship.

  • bliffle

    The real slander against capitalism seems to be perpetrated by Barger as he seems to think capitalism incapable of doing better, so we must stumble along in the current destructive mode.

  • Aaron

    “But that doesn’t mean that most people are lazy and souless like in Wall-E. In summary, no the patrons of my local Connersville, Indiana Wal-Mart do not resemble the pod people in the B&L spaceship.”

    I think you’ve missed the point on this whole thing. The people in Wall-e aren’t souless. I’m not sure what you mean by this. The people are very willing to get back on their feet (literally). If anything Wall-e not only showcases what we as a human race could become, but what we as a human race are capable of overcoming.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Aaron, I perfectly well got the point of the movie: REPENT!!!! Yes, of course they present redemption at the end, just like the church. Just sign your soul over to Jesus/Al Gore, and you can avoid going to hell.

  • Aaron

    Jesus and Al Gore compared in the same sentence? huh?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Come now, Aaron, the parallels are obvious.

    For starters, both men are regularly addressed as ‘Al’.

    Al Gore.
    Al Ellujah.

    How could you not see that?

    ;-)

  • Jordan Richardson

    Awful, Dread. Awful.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    What, worse than the old story about the kid who thought God’s name was Harold?

    You know – every Sunday he’d hear the Lord’s Prayer being recited in church: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name…”

  • Jordan Richardson

    Owwww.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    M,kay, let me dumb the point way down. The apocalyptic preacher tells you that you face doom and damnation – unless you repent of your supposed sins, and of course support his ministry. Likewise, Al Gore and his apocalyptic environmental church tell you that you face doom and damnation – unless you repent of your supposed sins, and support his ministry.

    That simple enough for y’all?

  • Ruvy

    Brother Al,

    I haven’t seen this movie at all, but of all people, you should be able to appreciate its points better than most. After all, what were you selling at a convenience shop all those years? You were selling products of convenience!

    American culture is all about laziness, convenience and instant gratification of all kinds. As a minor whip-cracker at Burger King for a dozen years, I got to see just what kind of trough I was running for just what kind of pigs.

    “Have it your way, right away!”

    Get the point, Brother Al?

    The mere fact that I was a manager at a fast food joint did not blind me to what I was doing. Running a C-store seems to have blinded you to the realities of the business you were in. The dystopia in the film you describe should revolt you – it merely carries the trends of laziness and convenience of American culture to its logical conclusions.

    My only question is how these wheelchair sitting lard-asses depicted in WALL-E had sex at all if they were unwilling to move from their wheelchairs.

    Love and kisses from the mountains of Samaria….

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Ah Brother Ruvy, always the voice of charity and optimism.

    Burger King of course is fast food, and obviously not the most nutritious choice. It’s an indulgence, and will tend to make you obese if you live on the stuff as your regular diet. But most people don’t.

    Also I reject the implicit idea that self-inflicted rejection of convenience is a sign of moral superiority, or of practical necessity. We get that kind of thing out here from the example of the Amish. They’re real nice folks, but we couldn’t have a prosperous modern country based on their ways. Even they end up shopping at Wal-Mart. God bless Wal-Mart.

    Plus, don’t be lumping together every kind of modern thing about “convenience” stores and fast food as bad. The family business sold food – milk and eggs bananas, as well as junk food and cigarettes. Overeating and living on junk food and not exercising are bad – but not an indictment of all modern living. Having a neighborhood store where you could buy bread and milk without a 15 mile drive to town is a good thing – and a convenient thing.

    Self-enforced inconvenience does not make you a better person, but just reduces your time and possibilities for pursuits other than scratching out a living.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Ruvy – no offense there brother, but when I read your comments here at BC I understand why you left….you really hate this place don’t you?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/ah_dowden AH Dowden

    “M,kay, let me dumb the point way down. The apocalyptic preacher tells you that you face doom and damnation – unless you repent of your supposed sins, and of course support his ministry. Likewise, Al Gore and his apocalyptic environmental church tell you that you face doom and damnation – unless you repent of your supposed sins, and support his ministry.”

    That’s a bit intellectually dishonest. I’ve never heard a preacher state that financial support of any minstry is part of redemtion. I doubt you have either.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Brother Dowden, if you’ve never heard a preacher state or strongly imply that financial support was an important part of redemption, then you just haven’t been paying attention. Who’s being dishonest here? A lot of tv evangelists especially certainly put a lot of emphasis on that tithing business, for starters.

    By the way, have you ever seen the famous Oscar winning evangelical documentary Marjoe?